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Tara Claeys on her bicycle

WordPress Professionals: Are You Cycling in the Big Ring?

Let’s Go For A Ride … When I first started cycling, I was in decent shape after a few years of running. In the beginning, I felt good about my pace and accomplishments. I was riding with some other women, and true to my competitive nature, I felt a need to show off and prove something – at least to myself. I pushed myself up hills with the most effort, thinking that a really tough, strong cyclist doesn’t need to change gears to make pedaling easier. Then one day, while riding with a very experienced cyclist, I was criticized for staying in my “big ring” (high gear) and “mashing my gears.” If you are not familiar with gears on a bicycle, there are typically two sets … one in the front, with one, two or three rings, which make the most dramatic change in effort needed to push the pedals through a revolution. The second set of gears, in the back, usually has more gears, which are used/changed more often for more subtle adjustments. While there are many styles of cycling and theories about the best way to ride and use gears, it is generally accepted that using the smaller ring…

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Scene from Stranger Things

Are your Clients in the "Upside Down" from "Stranger Things"?

In a recent meeting where I was training a client to use their new WordPress website, I suggested they keep the “front end” open in one browser tab and and the “back end” open in another. My client was having trouble understanding what “front end” and “back end” referred to. Having just finished the Netflix series, “Stranger Things,” it occurred to me that the front/back end of a website, for a client, might be a bit like the “Upside Down” world in this popular Sci-Fi series. In “Stranger Things,” a group of teenage boys attempts to find their lost friend, who they believe is trapped in an alternate dimension they call “The Upside Down.” They filter their experiences through the lens of their favorite game, Dungeons and Dragons, specifically a location called the Vale of Shadows. Their science teacher describes the alternate reality with a drawing of a tightrope, on which balances an acrobat and a flea. On top of the rope, the dimension has rules, you can move forward or backward. The flea, being small, can travel forward and backward, but can do so on the side or even underneath the tightrope, which he describes as another dimension. In our…

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Photo of watches

It's About Time: One of the Hardest Things about Being a Freelancer

Of all the challenges of being a freelance WordPress website “Implementor” … bookkeeping, invoicing, legal stuff, dealing with difficult clients, finding time to read blogs and keep up with new things, learn code, maintain or repair websites … the one thing I struggle with the most is tracking my time. Even though I bid many of my projects on a flat fee basis, I still do project work. Even on flat fee jobs where time is not directly billable, it is important to keep track of time to get an idea of how long tasks/projects take to be sure that I am not underestimating (or overestimating) the amount of time it takes to complete a job. If you’re like me, tracking time is not something that comes naturally. I recall a former boss, when I worked for an advertising agency, telling me, “if you think about the project in the shower or as you are falling asleep at night, that is billable time.”  My approach is more like, “this will be a very quick task so it’s not worth tracking/billing the time” … and two hours later, I have gotten lost in the project and never turned on a timer and…

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Favorite Google Chrome Extensions for Web Developers

Yesterday I wrote about my favorite Basic Google Chrome Extensions. There are a number of extensions specifically helpful for web development. Here are the ones I use every day: ColorZilla This is a super easy way to grab a color from your screen and learn the hex code. WordPress Admin Bar Control I love this tool for viewing a WordPress website without the admin tool bar in the way. A quick toggle clicking the button in the extensions toolbar is the best way to see a header and website as a non-logged in user will see it. WordPress Site Manager This extension allows you to store all your WordPress sites in one easy to access place in your Chrome toolbar.   SimilarWeb – Site Traffic Sources and Ranking This is a great tool to see real in-depth website engagement, traffic sources, and site ranking information on any website. app.telemetry Page Speed Monitor This extension offers a quick view of a page’s load speed, and when opened, shows more detail about the performance. WAVE Evaluation Tool This last one is a tool to test the accessibility of a website. When I applied it to some of my websites I was bummed…

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This is a screenshot of a Happy Days video with The Fonz

Making Mistakes and Falling on Your Sword

As a perfectionist, I have a hard time forgiving myself and accepting my mistakes. I know I’m not perfect, I just don’t really want anyone else to know it! And yet, in a quest for perfection, I also realize that a more perfect person admits when they are wrong and seeks forgiveness. Everyone loves to be right. It is embarrassing to make a mistake, even more embarrassing when others know about it. In her article in the Huffington Post, Lisabeth Saunders Medlock, PhD talks about learning from our mistakes. She says mistakes teach us to take responsibility and help us have integrity. The act of recognizing we were wrong “points out what we can do differently next time.” For me, mistakes often happen when I over-commit and don’t focus. While I am still not always successful, I am trying to be more thoughtful and realistic about my commitments and promises. I am also trying to approach tasks and evaluate “crises” more mindfully and with more calm than frenzy. Owning up to mistakes can be a relief as well as an inspiration to others. Saunders Medlock says “mistakes give us opportunities to talk through what we could or would have done differently,” which can in turn be lessons to others….

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This is a photo of a laptop at an aiport

Tips for Working Remotely

I have been traveling more than usual lately and working remotely. A wonderful thing about working for myself and the ease of staying connected these days, is that my business keeps running smoothly and unless I want them to, my clients don’t even know I am out of town (and it doesn’t matter anyway). I am very attached to my connected tools, and take pride in being very responsive. So when traveling, I have found some awesome tools to make my time away as productive (and sometimes more productive!) than I am when I am in my office. Working Remotely with Cordless Phone Chargers The hardest thing about traveling is the potential to run out of power on your laptop and phone. Having a USB cord and plug for your phone, as well as your laptop or tablet cord handy is important. I am attentive to plugging in wherever possible, keeping my devices at 100% as often as I can. At most airports, it is easy to find an outlet or power station. Plug in your computer and then use a USB cord to charge your phone from your computer. Carry a fully charged portable cordless phone charger like one…

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This is the WordCamp logo

Why I Love WordCamps

I attended my first WordCamp in Baltimore in 2014. I found out about WordCamp by accident. I had hired a developer in Florida to do some php work for a client of mine, and he mentioned in passing that he was presenting at WordCamp Tampa. I googled “WordCamp” and discovered the Baltimore WordCamp was coming up, so signed up – curious and skeptical about what the $40 conference fee could offer. What is a WordCamp? The definition on WordCamp Central says “WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress, the free and open source personal publishing software that powers over 75 million sites on the web.” The first WordCamp was held in 2006 in San Francisco by Matt Mullenweg. Now there are over 500 WordCamps around the world.   The first sessions were somewhat enlightening. I learned more about the Genesis framework, using Yoast for SEO, and some upcoming trends. As a self-taught WordPress user and developing “Developer” I loved the ease with which I could fill my mind with new concepts. At lunch, I approached the awkward room of strangers and chose a table with a lot of empty seats. I introduced myself to the two people…

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The Blogging Challenge: Blogging For One Month

I met the sister team from @sumydesigns, Susan Sullivan and Amy Masson at WordCamp US. They impressed me with their commitment to blogging about website and WordPress design and development. As a result, I have set myself a goal of blogging every day (or almost every day!) for the month of March. The Design TLC Blogging Challenge begins today! If you are interested in expanding your website and WordPress skills, learning about great tools for website design and development and other general productivity tips, please sign up to follow my challenge. If I know you are reading, I am more likely to meet this Challenge and blog every day!   I am trying out CoSchedule as a tool to help me plan my month of blog posts, and also to help me select compelling headlines and content. Combined with Google Docs, the process looks like it will go smoothly!  

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Why I Love My Job

I started a personal blog on TLC by TARA a few months ago. The intention was to share general thoughts, reflections on life and get in the habit of blogging. While I enjoy that, I haven’t been very regular about it and feel the need to write about what I do all day instead of, or in addition to, what I think about. I decided to add a work/WordPress-related blog that will allow me to share the joys, challenges and lessons of making websites with WordPress. As a start, for my first post, I am going to give shouts out to those who have helped me learn what I know (so far). When I look at the work I have done and the clients I have helped, I am proud of what I see, but I know that it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the WordPress community. Other Developers I am not afraid to ask questions (despite the fear of revealing my ignorance!) Thankfully, the WordPress community is made up of kind, helpful people who are, in my experience, always willing to help. Whether giving advice, making a quick fix, giving a lesson, or being available for hire for more advanced work, I…

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